Lots of mums-to-be find themselves asking how to sleep when pregnant. I’ve had seven babies myself, so I know just how tough it can be to get a good night’s sleep in pregnancy. Here are some ideas and suggestions to help you get the rest you need.
Sleep position can be a big concern when considering how to sleep when pregnant. There’s a lot of worrying and confusing information in the media about increased risks of stillbirth if you sleep on your back.
There is some research evidence which suggests that sleeping on your back after 28 weeks of pregnancy may slightly increase this risk, so you should try to go to sleep lying on your side during the third trimester if possible. Use lots of pillows to support you in a comfortable position. Special big pregnancy pillows and a pillow between your legs may help.
But please don’t panic if you wake up lying on your back. Just roll onto your side again before going back to sleep again. The research studies only asked women about what position they initially settled down in to go to sleep. You can’t control how you move once you are asleep. It’s actually quite difficult and uncomfortable to lie on your back for long periods in late pregnancy anyway, so you probably won’t do so.
And don’t forget that before 28 weeks you can sleep in whatever position you like!
Heartburn and indigestion can keep you awake when pregnant. It helps to avoid eating close to bedtime. Try to have your main meal at lunchtime instead of in the evening, if you can. Try to sit upright when eating. Antacids and heartburn remedies such as Gaviscon may help. If these don’t do the trick you can ask your GP for Ranitidine or Omeprazole tablets. These reduce the amount of acid in your stomach and are known to be safe in pregnancy.
Cramps and restless legs can be a big challenge when trying to work out how to sleep when pregnant. Restless Leg Syndrome affects around one in five pregnant women in the third trimester. It can keep you awake at night and add to stress and anxiety.
Gentle exercise such as walking or yoga during the day or before bedtime can release tension and help you sleep better. Yoga poses such as child’s pose, cat-cow curls, side stretches and legs up the wall are wonderful. Always seek advice from a fully qualified specialist instructor before practising yoga in pregnancy.
Anxiety and stress can be one of the biggest issues when working out how to sleep when pregnant. Having a baby changes so many things in life. You may be worried about finances, relationships or career. Thinking about the impending birth and the challenges of parenthood can keep you awake too.
Simple breath exercises can be very useful for coping with anxiety and insomnia. Try first noticing your breaths, and then counting them. This is a great way to calm a busy mind. Take the opportunity when pregnant to learn mindfulness and meditation techniques which will help you cope better during pregnancy, birth and when caring for your baby too.
Above all, try not to worry too much! Worry about sleeplessness can be one of the biggest causes of insomnia. Sometimes a simple cup of tea sitting in a comfortable chair is enough to make you feel better. Remember that pregnancy lasts only for a short time.
I also have a sneaking suspicion that night-time wakefulness in pregnancy is one of nature’s little ways of preparing mums for all those night feeds with baby! Getting to know the most comfortable and snuggly corner of your home in the middle of the night will stand you in good stead in the months to come.
Karen Lawrence is a mum of seven, qualified midwife and health visitor, and specialist pregnancy and postnatal yoga instructor. She runs Yoga and Mindfulness for Pregnancy and Birth courses in South Essex, UK. Karen is also available for one-to-one birth preparation, meditation classes and postnatal massage treatments. You can see more information and book classes at her website,
You can read more about the research into sleep position and related advice at this link: